whale sharks and critters in the Philippines
Whale sharks and critters in the Philippines…
Our arrival in Cabilao was early into the first night and we sought anchorage in extremely calm seas for a good night of rest and relaxation. When we awoke, our luck of great weather and conditions kept with us. We were delighted to see the sun slowly climbing over the misty mountains of Bohol behind us and the smooth, clear water of the Bohol Sea lapping on the shores of Cabilao ahead of us. After some light breakfast and a briefing we were finally ready to do what we had come all this way for, DIVING! The first dive was at Current View and we had wonderfully favorable conditions for the first dive of the week. We had all sorts of critters joining us including Candy Crabs, Commensal Crinoid Shrimps, Anna’s Chormodoris, schools of Yellow tail barracudas and anthias. The second dive was at Gorgonian Wall where we encountered a moderate current allowing us to complete a drift dive along a gorgeous wall full of soft corals, Denise pygmy seahorse, orangutan crab, juvenile batfish and many different species of clownfish. After we had some lunch and a little warm up and relaxation time in the tropical sun we headed to Lighthouse where the reef was teaming with juveniles, large fish in the blue and critters hiding along the sand some of which included: ringed pipefish, Bargibanti pygmy seahorses, mushroom coral shrimp, geometric chromodoris and rainbow runners schooling with some tuna off the wall. Our fourth dive took place at Cambaquiz and was our first night dive of the week. This is a dive along a sandy slope and some of the animals that were waking up or staying awake for us to see were these stunning squid.
The second day of diving we spent at the beautiful small island of Balicasag with the first dive at Black Forest where we saw schools of Fusiliers, some turtles, a huge day octopus and many species of crab and shrimp. After some breakfast we geared up again and headed to Diver’s Heaven where other than a gorgeous wall teaming with juvenile fish species we found, giant frogfish, more green turtles, blue fin trevallies, a huge school of big eye jacks and different sorts of nudibranchs. The third dive of the day brought us to a site called Cathedral, where we saw amazing topography and a myriad of hard and soft corals as well as an orange leaf fish, more big eye jacks, Anna’s chromodoris, banded sea snakes and porcelain crabs. The final dive of the day was a night dive at Black Forest 2. We saw all sorts of interesting critters on this dive including, juvenile octopus, cuttlefish, squat shrimp, orangutan crab and many other underwater friends.
The third morning brought something special when we pulled into Oslob and prepared to snorkel with the juvenile whale sharks! As juveniles these massive fish are still up to 7 meters in length! After picking up and leaving for our next destination we enjoyed some breakfast and relaxed until we were in the shadow of a volcano near Dauin on the island of Negros Occidental. The first dive in Dauin was at Mainit which means hot in Visayan (Philippine dialect) for the heat we can feel permeating through the sand on the later part of the dive. On this unearthly looking dive site we saw a school of great barracudas, green turtles, porcelain crabs and a HUGE octopus. Our second dive was at a fantastic black sand location known as Pyramids, named for its steel pyramids set up to create an artificial reef around 20m. On this dive we were accompanied by some amazing critters such as two painted and one giant frogfish, sea moths, dragonets and three flamboyant cuttlefish. The last dive of the day was again completed at Pyramids but was a night dive to which we were surprised with all sorts of creatures of the black sands such as, crocodile snake eels, bobtail squids, ornate ghost pipefish and flamboyant cuttlefish!
Apo Island was next where we started off diving at Rocky Point West with a nice calm morning dive amongst some extremely healthy soft and hard coral. Amongst the coral we found plenty of critters hiding such as banded sea snakes, Anna’s chromodoris, schools of blue lined sea fusiliers and commensal feather star shrimp. After some filling breakfast we finished off our Apo Island diving experience with a dive at Katipanan. Here we were greeted by other reef species amongst the amazingly plentiful soft corals and staghorn coral fields. We saw some more banded sea snakes, crested nembrotha, Kubaryana’s nembrotha, peacock tail anemone shrimp and green sea turtles! After taking some time relaxing and eating lunch we were ready to head back to Dauin for an afternoon dive and a night dive. Our third dive took place at Bonnett’s Corner and is home to some amazing critters some of which were the cockatoo waspfish, juvenile ambon scorpianfish, dragonets, seahorses and coconut octopus! After coming back from this dive we did a night dive at Luca Sanctuary in which we saw an ENORMOUS green moray, FIVE ghost pipefish, two leafy scorpionfish and some cuttlefish.
We left Dauin right after our night dive and arrived in Siquijor (the magic island) later that evening! Siquijor is home to some beautiful hard coral reefs and a magnificent wall. We decided to show off her underwater beauty initially with two dives at Paliton Wall where we found fire gobies, pregnant Sarasvati anemone shrimps, adult ribbon eels, magnificent chromodoris and many other species of crab and shrimp hiding in a cave found at 30m/100ft! We had such good dives at this site we decided to get back at it right after lunch a little sooner than usual so that we could make time to get a sunset dive in. Although we shortened our surface interval, our dive was not cut short in anyway and we had a beautiful dive at Coco Grove where we saw juvenile batfish, a pipehorse, two leafy scorpionfish and mantis shrimp. The last night dive of the trip we decided to go on a sunset hunt for mandarin fish and we were happy when it paid off. We started off the dive hunting around the sand flats in shallow water and found all sorts of species of crabs, shrimps and nudis, but the star of the show were the mandarin fish that came out right at sunset and we even got to see a pair mating!
For the final day of diving we returned to Cabilao. It was a perfect morning for an early morning dive at Panggangan where we were treated to some amazing critters like the Pegasus sea moth, network pipefish, blue dragon nudi, painted thecacer, blue velvet headshield slug and squat shrimp. The second to last dive was done back at one of our favorites; Gorgonian Wall. The last dive of the week was done at a site called Balay Point and included some fantastic macro life to end the week such as orangutan crab, xenia shrimp and soft coral. Filled with high spirits we made our way back towards Cebu. We had seen many interesting and for some very new animals on this trip and we were ready to share stories and reminisce with our new friends we had made over this amazing week aboard the Philippine Siren II. We had a big barbeque and some farewell drinks to cheers to the guests and crew for making this a week none of us would be forgetting soon!
From the crew and all of us here at Siren Fleet we say thank you and salamat for joining us and we hope to see you soon aboard this or one of our other fine liveaboard yachts very soon!
Photos by Alan Coppell & Susie Erbe